So, who’s the quarterback now?
The No. 16 Miami Hurricanes came to Charlottesville on Saturday with redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, after two starts and a stunning comeback against nemesis Florida State, considered the young man who could bring Hurricanes football to new heights.
But it took two ugly overthrown disasters picked off by the Virginia Cavaliers in an equally ugly couple of first quarters to change the fans’ perceptions — and apparently, Miami coach Mark Richt’s as well.
In came former starter Malik Rosier, who also struggled, as Virginia upset the Hurricanes 16-13 in front of a homecoming crowd of 42,393 that rushed the field at Scott Stadium in absolute ecstasy.
“Disappointing loss for sure,’’ said UM coach Mark Richt. “We were fighting hard to get back in it at the end, but unfortunately, we had a couple penalties that hurt us at the very end. ...We weren’t good enough tonight. We certainly struggled offensively.’’
The Canes had a late 93-yard drive that was culminated by an 11-yard Rosier touchdown, but an onside kick by Miami was recovered by the Cavaliers, who started their drive at the Miami 27 with 3:04 left. UM’s defense held Virgina for what would have been a three-and-out, but a personal foul by Miami defensive lineman Tito Odenigbo gave Virginia a first down at UM’s 9-yard line, taking away Miami’s last-gasp opportunity and erasing valuable seconds off the dwindling clock.
The game basically ended after Miami was called for roughing the kicker with 30 seconds left. The crowd went wild as UM players walked into their tunnel.
Perry, a redshirt freshman who played all but two series in UM’s victory against FIU and started in the past two victories against North Carolina and FSU, was replaced by Rosier at 11:11 of the second quarter. His numbers: 3 of 6 for 20 yards and interceptions run back 31 yards by Cavalier Joey Blount late in the first quarter and 62 yards by Juan Thornhill early in the second quarter.
Rosier’s numbers: 12 of 23 for 170 yards, with a fourth-quarter interception, again by Thornhill.
“You can ask about the quarterback change,’’ Richt said. “I just felt like I needed a guy with some veteran experience in there to be able to handle the situation. N’Kosi is a really outstanding player and has a bright future ahead of him. But tonight, with the way things were going, I wanted to go ahead and give Malik an opportunity to get in here and get us back in this ball game.
“I thought Malik did a good job. As far as who’s going to play in the next game, I can’t tell you that right now. But we’ll be looking at the film.’’
Rosier said he hadn’t taken a first-team rep in practice since the FIU game.
“He came to me and said, ‘Just be you. Do what you’re supposed to do. Take it one play at a time,’ Rosier said of Richt’s message when he brought in the redshirt senior. “I didn’t feel uncomfortable, but yeah, sitting out a couple games, it felt different at first.”
Perry’s first pick led to a 26-yard Virginia field goal to open the scoring. Worse yet, Canes starting cornerback Michael Jackson was ejected during the drive for what officials deemed as targeting.
The second pick, a deep throw nowhere near intended Miami receiver Mike Harley, led to a 7-yard touchdown run by Jordan Ellis, who barreled right through the middle of UM’s defense.
“The last play N’Kosi played,” Richt said, “we had a flag route, and it looked like the receiver went over the top of the safety and you’ve got to go underneath the safety. That’s what it looked like in hindsight. N’Kosi was throwing the ball to the spot where he thought the receiver should be running it. It might not have been that poor of a decision or that poor of a throw.
“We’ve got to be coordinated. We’ve got to be on the same page. And everybody’s got to do what they’re supposed to do. It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow, a long flight home and a long time before we get to play another game. So, we’ve got a lot of things to straighten out and we’ve got some time to do it.”
Virginia (4-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) also scored on a 46-yard field goal by Brian Delaney late in the second quarter to make it 13-6, and a 32-yard field goal with 10:49 left in the fourth quarter to make it 16-6.
The Canes, who fell to 5-2 and 2-1, scored on second-quarter Bubba Baxa field goals of 47 and 28 yards.
The Hurricanes struggled mightily from the start, failing to get a first down in the opening quarter while gaining a total of 14 yards on nine plays.
UM’s defense had two interceptions by Trajan Bandy and one by Sheldrick Redwine, and held the Cavaliers to 231 yards.
But it made little difference, other than preventing a blowout.
The Canes have an off week to gather their senses, recover and get ready for a trip to Boston College (5-2, 2-1), which beat Louisville 38-20 on Saturday. The UM at BC game will be a nationally televised Friday-night kickoff on Oct. 26.
“It’s definitely a tough one to sit on,’’ safety Jaquan Johnson said of the loss. “It’s probably a blessing that...we don’t get to go right back into battle. We’ll come back better.’’